What’s worse than knowing your little one is under the weather? When it comes to viruses like the common cold, there isn’t anything you can do to treat the cold itself (source). You can, though, treat the symptoms that come along with the cold.
Whether you have a new baby or a toddler, options for treating cold symptoms are limited. The over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants you might reach for when you have a cold aren’t recommended for small children.
In fact, with kids, it’s frequently more dangerous to treat the symptoms than it is to live with the discomfort (source).
If you have a congested, miserable baby and you’re looking for something to provide a little relief, you do have options, including using saline nose drops. We’ll jump into the details below, so let’s get started.
What Are Saline Nose Drops?
They are a saltwater solution used to irrigate the nasal passages and provide relief from swelling and congestion. They are available for purchase over the counter, or you can make a saline solution at home.
Congestion is a typical, and unfortunate, side effect of the common cold. Swelling of the sinuses and nasal cavity can impede easy breathing and cause fluid buildup (source).
This mucus slowdown increases pressure and can make your baby quite uncomfortable.
Why Are They Used for Babies?
Over-the-counter remedies for adults are designed to reduce swelling and allow for easier breathing. While they’re not an option for small children, using a saline solution in the form of nose drops can help reduce swelling as well.
The salt in the saline solution helps decrease inflammation in the mucous membranes. The solution will also help loosen any blockages while restoring moisture to the sinuses.
These drops are frequently recommended for babies and young children because they don’t contain any medication. They are safe to use on your little one, and they’re able to provide the relief your baby needs.
Will Saline Drops Help My Baby?
Before treating your child for cold symptoms, you’ll want to rule out the possibility that it’s not a cold. If your child has an infection that needs to be treated with an antibiotic, it’s best to have that prescribed early on. You can visit your pediatrician for a prescription.
Frequent causes of congestion that would require antibiotics include ear infections and sinus infections. At such a young age, the sinuses are quite small and can be easily compromised.
Even the common cold can lead to a secondary infection you may, at first, not realize has set in (source).
If your child has an infection and may require antibiotics, here are some indicators to look for.
- Ear pulling: Ear discomfort is a classic sign of an ear infection. Babies may cry and pull at their ears. You might notice redness or drainage, but there are frequently no exterior signs to an ear infection. If you suspect an ear infection, bring your child to the pediatrician, who will examine the inner ear (source).
- High fever: Low-grade fevers that respond well to ibuprofen or acetaminophen are common alongside a cold. A high fever, especially one that doesn’t respond well to medication or returns again and again, may be a sign of infection (source).
- Thick nasal discharge, especially if it’s colored: While copious discharge may happen during colds, it should be clear and odorless. If you run into thick, green, sludge-like mucus, it’s time to see your doctor.
- Productive coughing: If your child is coughing up mucus, especially if it’s that same opaque green, it’s worth a doctor’s visit.
- Foul odor: Infections are usually accompanied by odor. If there’s a foul odor, whether it’s coming from the ears, the mouth, or the nose, there’s likely an infection behind it.
Saline nose drops can be included in a treatment plan along with antibiotics to provide additional comfort. However, if your child does have an infection and you fail to treat it, you’ll only be providing surface relief. Ruling out the need for antibiotics is always a great place to start.
If there is no infection present, there are some things to look for in your child that indicate congestion. Is your child breathing more noisily than usual, breathing mostly through their mouth, or are they uncomfortable in a reclined position?
If so, they will likely benefit from these nose drops.
While infections and colds are a common cause of congestion, allergies can cause similar problems. If your child doesn’t have an infection, and cold symptoms linger for more than ten days, return to your doctor to discuss alternative causes. Your child may need a different treatment plan.
Making Saline Nose Drops at Home
Saline nasal drops can be found at the drug store and purchased over the counter. While there are prescription drops available, they aren’t likely to be prescribed to small children.
Do you need drops suddenly in the middle of the night? No interest in wrapping up your sick child and running to the store? No problem.
There’s no need for a special trip — you can make saline nose drops with items you likely already have in the kitchen (source).
Plain kosher salt works best for making these drops. Avoid using salt brands containing additives. Simply create a mixture of salt and baking soda in the following ratio:
- Three teaspoons of non-iodized kosher salt.
- One teaspoon of baking soda.
Once mixed, keep it handy in a small, sealed jar. When you need it, just combine the mixture with water in the following amounts, and it’s ready to be used:
- One pinch of the salt and baking soda mixture.
- Eight ounces of distilled or sterilized water.
You should plan on using your saline solution at room temperature, and your salt and baking soda mixture can be kept on the shelf.
How to Give Saline Nose Drops
Once you have your saline nose drop solution, you’ll need to be prepared to administer it. Simply insert the solution into one nostril and allow it to travel into the nasal cavity. Repeat on the other side.
This may seem like a tricky task, however, when you have an uncomfortable and squirming child. For best results, the following steps should be taken (source):
- Using an eyedropper, draw up some of the saline solution.
- Lie your baby across your lap, with head angled slightly toward the floor — use gravity to help the saline solution get where it needs to be.
- Place a few drops in each nostril.
- Allow the baby to remain reclined for a few minutes, if possible. This may encourage sneezing, which will help loosen and remove mucus and congestion.
- Using an aspirator bulb, gently remove any newly loosened mucus.
Hopefully, using the drops will leave your baby with a less congested nasal passage. If you feel there’s a need to repeat the process, it won’t do any harm.
Safety Precautions to Take
When administering the drops, follow some basic safety precautions:
- Make sure your hands and all the equipment are clean. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after application to limit the transmission of germs. Your eyedropper and aspirator bulb should be sterilized after each use, as well.
- If your child begins to cough, allow them to sit up.
- Weakness, lethargy, trouble breathing, and an irregular heartbeat are never normal and require immediate medical attention.
In addition to using saline nose drops for your child, these are some techniques you can use to help lessen congestion:
- Use a cool mist humidifier to moisten the air.
- Petroleum jelly rubbed under the nose can help prevent raw, chapped skin.
- A warm bath can help soothe sore muscles and aches.
- Warm steam from a hot shower can help loosen trapped mucus. You can hold your baby with the door closed in your bathroom as the water runs in the shower.
- Keep your baby hydrated.
It’s true that you can’t shorten the length of the common cold, but you can make it more comfortable for your child to get through (source). These techniques, alongside the use of the nose drops, could make a big difference for your little one.
Keeping Your Child Comfortable
Although we can’t prevent our children from being exposed to germs and getting sick, we can work to make it as pain-free as possible.
Using saline drops may be a good way to provide your child with much-needed congestion relief. When your child isn’t feeling well, even small measures can add up to a significant increase in comfort.
What’s your go-to method when it comes to dealing with congestion in your young children? Do you have a favorite remedy we didn’t discuss here? Have you used saline nose drops with success?
We’d love to hear about it — drop us a comment below. And please share our article with the other parents you know. We’ll fight our way through this cold season together!